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Once a year, lawyers from The Firm pack their bags and travel to a resort location for purposes of spending the weekend with their colleagues. While billed as an outing for fun and recreation, The Firm retreat is, in fact, something quite different for associates trying hard to impress. Every move an associate makes during the course of the outing is closely observed and evaluated by the partners. One’s behavior at a law firm retreat can, in fact, make or break a career. Typically, the schedule for The Firm’s retreat includes a Friday night get-together for drinks, dinner and drinks. During the day on Saturday, there are usually three recreational events to choose from: golf, tennis and drinking. (The latter, of course, is generally also included in the former two.) On Saturday night, a formal affair consisting of dining, drinking and dancing takes place. This event is customarily both preceded by and followed with drinks. Sometime during the weekend, generally on Saturday morning, there is some sort of meeting held concerning the state of The Firm or a professional development presentation. The main purpose of this gathering is, of course, to permit The Firm to write off the entire retreat as a business expense. Ideally, The Firm will make arrangements to qualify this presentation for continuing legal education credit. As almost any lawyer will tell you, continuing legal education credits are much easier to swallow when washed down with Bloody Marys. Many young lawyers, especially those new to The Firm, may not know what to expect at The Firm’s retreat. Some of the preparations associates need to make and precautions they need to take are described below. 1. Selection of a Companion. The Firm retreat is usually the first opportunity partners have to evaluate associates based on the company they keep. The person you select to accompany you to The Firm retreat is as important to your career as are your lawyering skills. Bringing an attractive, witty and entertaining date to The Firm retreat will take years off your partnership track. Bringing someone law firm VIPs have no interest in stealing away from you, on the other hand, can amount to a career-ending move. If you are romantically involved with someone who might not make the grade, you have some work to do before leaving for the retreat. First, inform the love of your life that the retreat is “lawyers only” and you have no choice but to attend alone. Then, find an appropriate friend or acquaintance willing to pretend to be your significant other for the weekend. If worst comes to worst, consult the Yellow Pages or a local news rack for an escort service. By the way, bringing your secretary to the retreat is probably not the best way to announce your interoffice romance. Besides, he or she might have already accepted an invitation from another lawyer and you’ll end up seeing the two of them there anyway. 2. Drinking. The trick here is to knock back enough alcohol to demonstrate you are one of the boys (even if you’re a girl) but, at the same time, not get so drunk that you will feel free to tell a few partners what you really think of them. 3. Golf and Tennis. If being forced to sign forms waiving your right to sue The Firm if injured doesn’t take all the fun out of playing golf and tennis, the competition will. You can play like a pro when up against other associates. When competing against a partner who looks as though she hasn’t exercised since last year’s retreat, however, you must not only throw the match but throw out false compliments about your opponent’s superior athletic abilities. 4. Other Sports. If you prefer not to participate in any other extracurricular activities with partners during the retreat, you are well advised to lock your door before going to bed at night. Don’t fall for the old trick lawyers pull of knocking on your door and pretending to be from room service. 5. Drinking. It is considered poor form for associates to pass out at retreat events. If you are going to do so, at least show deference and wait for all partners in attendance to conk out before you do. 6. Socializing. The Firm retreat may be the only chance you’ll ever have to speak with partners in a social setting. Associates must therefore prepare themselves to carry on a conversation with those who will decide their professional fates. Since most lawyers have no outside interests, stick to questions that they can respond to, such as: “How is your deal coming along?” or “What’s new with your clients?” Chitchat about anything on the outside will only elicit blank stares. 7. Entertainment. At many law firm retreats, associates provide some of the entertainment. This is typically in the form of a skit in which associates lampoon The Firm’s partners. A word of advice to associates: what might seem hilarious on Saturday night simply won’t seem as funny on Monday morning when you are summoned to the office of the partner you portrayed in the skit. 8. Drinking. Also on Monday morning, all promises made, tears shed, emotions expressed and deeds done over drinks and over the course of the weekend must be forgotten. It’s back to business as usual at The Firm. The Rodent is a syndicated columnist and author of “Explaining the Inexplicable: The Rodent’s Guide to Lawyers.” His e-mail address is [email protected]

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